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Context of 'Summer 2001: Pentagon’s Police Force Holds Various, Unknown Emergency Drills'

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The Pentagon’s police force, the Defense Protective Service (DPS), conducts emergency drills throughout summer 2001. Some members of the DPS subsequently assist in directing rescue efforts at the Pentagon on 9/11. (Cooper 9/13/2001)

Sergeant William Lagasse.Sergeant William Lagasse. [Source: Citizen Investigation Team]Several police officers and firefighters see the low-flying Flight 77 as it approaches the Pentagon and crashes. They quickly report this to their own agencies or to the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center (ECC), which is the focal point of all police and fire 911 calls for the county. (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 66)
bullet Arlington County Police Department Corporal Barry Foust is stopped at traffic lights less than two miles from the Pentagon, and spots the aircraft flying low, then sees a plume of smoke. (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 13) He immediately calls the ECC and calmly reports: “I think we just had an airplane crash east of here. Must be in the District area.” (Cohn and Cho 9/17/2001; Associated Press 9/18/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services 7/2002, pp. C6 pdf file)
bullet Police Motorcycle Officer Richard Cox is standing near a diner less than a mile from the Pentagon. Hearing a sudden roar, he turns and reportedly sees the plane “directly overhead… no more than a hundred feet off the ground.” (Vogel 2007, pp. 427) He calls the ECC and reports, “It’s an American Airlines plane headed eastbound over the [Columbia] Pike, possibly headed for the Pentagon.” (Cohn and Cho 9/17/2001; Associated Press 9/18/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services 7/2002, pp. C6 pdf file)
bullet Fire Captain Steve McCoy and his crew are traveling north on Interstate 395 in ACFD Engine 101, for a training session in Crystal City. McCoy reportedly sees “a commercial airliner in steep descent, banking sharply to its right before disappearing beyond the horizon,” followed by “a tremendous explosion” and “a massive plume of smoke and fire.” He immediately radioes ECC and reports, “We got a plane down, it looks like in the Crystal City area by the 14th Street Bridge.” Being aware of the attacks on the World Trade Center, he advises that the FBI should be notified, as this is a possible terrorist attack. (US Department of Health and Human Services 7/2002, pp. A4 pdf file; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 66)
bullet Officer Mark Bright of the Defense Protective Service (DPS)—the Pentagon’s police force—is manning the security booth at the Pentagon’s Mall entrance, when he hears a loud noise. He will recall: “I saw the plane at the Navy Annex area [a few hundred yards from the Pentagon]. I knew it was going to strike the building because it was very, very low—at the height of the street lights.” As soon as he sees it hit the Pentagon he radioes in his report of the attack, and then speeds in his police cruiser to the crash site, becoming the first officer there. (Garamone 9/24/2001; Thomas-Lester 10/25/2001; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 152)
bullet Sergeant William Lagasse, also a member of the DPS, is filling up his patrol car at a gas station near the Pentagon. He recalls that he sees an “American Airlines 757… approximately 100 feet above the ground level, maybe 60 feet in front of me.” He watches the plane crash into the Pentagon. His first reaction is to call the DPS Communications Center and state, “An aircraft has just flown into the side of the building.” He then grabs his medical bag and dashes to the crash scene. (Thomas-Lester 10/25/2001; Lagasse 12/4/2001)
bullet Alan Wallace and Mark Skipper of the Fort Myer Fire Department are manning the fire station by the Pentagon heliport, and are outside checking their truck. Wallace glances up and sees the plane coming at them, and the two men then dive for cover (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Wallace promptly radioes the fire department headquarters at Fort Myer, and reports that an airliner has hit the west side of the Pentagon. (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 65)
Partly due to these calls, many emergency responders quickly learn of the crash and are able to arrive at the Pentagon within minutes of it (see 9:40 a.m.-9:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 66) Some fire and rescue units from Arlington County and elsewhere also respond—self-dispatching from stations or diverting from other destinations—after hearing Captain McCoy’s radio message to the ECC. (US Department of Health and Human Services 7/2002, pp. A4 pdf file)

At the time the Pentagon is struck, a member of the Defense Protective Service (DPS), which guards the Pentagon, is in the process of ordering the threat level be raised. John Pugrud, the deputy chief of the DPS, has met with DPS Chief John Jester, and Jester directed him to instruct the DPS Communications Center to raise the Force Protection Condition up one level, from Normal to Alpha (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The moment the Pentagon is hit, Pugrud has the phone in his hand to dial the center. When his call is answered, he can hear the center’s alarms activating and radio calls taking place. The dispatcher yells: “We’ve been hit! We’ve been hit! Wedge one. Wedge one.” According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack, no one in DPS has received any warning of a hijacked aircraft heading toward Washington. (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 152) No steps have been taken to alert Pentagon employees or evacuate the building. (Vogel 2007, pp. 429) Around 30 minutes after the attack occurs, the US military will increase its threat level to Defcon Delta, the highest possible level (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/4/2002) This will be reduced to “Charlie” before the end of the week. (US Department of Defense 9/16/2001; Weisman 9/16/2001)

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